Whelping - A Guide For Expectant Owners!

If you own a bitch that's pregnant, the arrival of the puppies can be both exciting and stressful.  So how do you know when the puppies' arrival is imminent and when should you call your emergency vet?  Read on for more information.

Signs of imminent whelping

When your bitch is ready to give birth, she will display some or all of the following signs:

  • signs of nesting – looking around for a suitable place to give birth
  • restlessness
  • loss of appetite
  • temperature drop to below 37.8 Celsius

You should prepare a comfy whelping box that's roomy enough for the bitch to move around in and has clean, washable bedding.

Signs of trouble

Most dogs simply get on with whelping all by themselves.  However, there can be complications and you should be aware of the signs of trouble so that you can call the emergency vet promptly if need be.

  1. Once your dog goes into labour, she should produce at least one puppy within two hours.  If the contractions appear to be intense or prolonged with no sign of a puppy being delivered, it's possible that a particularly large puppy is stuck, blocking the birth canal.
  2.  There should not be a lapse of more than an hour or so between puppies.
  3. If you notice excessive bleeding or green discharge from your bitch's vagina, there could be a serious problem and immediate veterinary attention is required.
  4. If your dog appears very lethargic or her temperature is elevated to more than 39.4 Celsius, she could have an infection.  
  5. Watch out for a puppy's tail hanging from the bitch's vulva or a large lump behind the vulva accompanied by unsuccessful straining.  This is usually indicative of a breech presentation and veterinary assistance will be required urgently.
  6. A small amount of discharge is to be expected following a safe delivery.  However, if your dog has excessively bloody, greenish or smelly discharge from her vagina, contact your vet immediately as these could all be signs of an infection.


If the bitch becomes restless, stiff when moving or salivates excessively, she may be showing signs of eclampsia, a condition caused by reduced calcium levels in the blood of nursing mothers.  These symptoms can rapidly progress to fever, muscle spasms and death.  It's vital that you contact your vet as an emergency if you notice any of these signs.

The arrival of puppies is an exciting time for both your bitch and for you.  Be aware of the signs of trouble so you can be ready for a vet emergency if you are concerned that all is not well.